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The Juice... with Kevin Griffiths (Tsuba Records)

Influential Tsuba Records notch 5 candles on the cake with a special release.

The Plug

Hi Kevin, tell us briefly how you started Tsuba Records?

I used to run Fine Records working closely with the likes of Tiefschwarz and when the label closed starting my own was a natural progression. Here I am 5 years later!

Do you have any philiosophy for Tsuba and what it's about?

My aim is to release quality underground house music, generally leaning towards the deeper end of the spectrum. It's also important to have a strong visual identity and brand.

Tell us about the 5 Years Release, how's it been collated?

I wanted to do something to celebrate reaching 5 years and it's also a full stop on the first chapter of the label. I'm doing two special ep's - the first of which brings together some remixes of Tsuba classics (Sebo k, Art Department & Art Mwambe) and a collab between Okain and Hector. The second part of the ep has exclusive new tracks from Christian Burkhardt and Federico Molinari, Ethyl & Huxley, Bearweasel and myself and Justin Drake.

What events have you got to support the release?

I just did a party at Watergate with Nina Kraviz which was great. Such an amazing DJ - technically spot on and she played a real cross section of house styles. The room was going nuts! Then there's supermarket in Zurich with Justin and next wkend is Fabric which I'm very excited about. There's me, Dean Bearweasel, Federico and Christian Burkhardt live taking over room 3.

What has been the most defining Tsuba release in the 5 years?

Tough one! There's been a few pivotal ones. Having Peace Division do an ep was a big deal as I've always been such a fan and it's still one of my favourite releases. Then working with Dyed early in his career was good timing for Tsuba and him. I try and work with friends as it makes the releases more rewarding.

Peace Division - Eh Oh Um (Tsuba 30)

Who is the one artist you've really wanted, but not managed, to get yet?

Sebo K has been top of my list for a remix for a long time and I asked him many times. I guess he did one just to shut me up! ;-). He's a super nice guy and the remix of Nina didn't disappoint. Generally if I'm really into a particular artist I just ask.

Nina Kraviz - Okain's Scream (Sebo K Remix)

The Issues

How do you assess the health and future of a label like Tsuba?

There's no doubt it's tough for labels. The vinyl market is small, though hopefully won't get any smaller as there will always be collectors. The only way to make a living from it is to do pretty much everything myself. My wife is my accountant, I have a friend who does the artwork and Dispersion do my club promo, but other than that I do everything myself. I can't see the market getting easier but I can see Tsuba reaching 10 years or more. I'm still hugely passionate about it and the love running the label, so I don't see why not. It's very addictive and I'm more hooked than ever! My next project is to relaunch the website and make it more interactive, selling vinyl, downloads, t shirts etc. Facebook has been a revelation in terms of communicating directly with the fans of the label so the aim is to develop this further.

Kevin Griffiths - Tsuba Chief

Why has underground music become so popular in the last 2-3 years?

In Europe, Ibiza and Berlin have been pretty influential on that front. It's like everything in music, it all goes in cycles, and at the moment its swinging towards underground music.

Beatport is a negative force in electronic music. Discuss.

How's that for a question! With my business head on, I couldn't really agree as I sell 75% of all my downloads with beatport and pretty much run the label based on that income. They do have a monopoly but they were quick to establish themselves in the market so you can't knock them for that. The best thing about the digital market is that its made the music a lot more accessible and created a bigger audience. For me, the downside is there's a very high turnover of releases which is a bit unhealthy and can create quite formulaic music.

Anyone can set up a 'record label' and do digital downloads, and in a lot of cases there's no quality control. At the moment the most inspiring music is coming from the vinyl side of things, which I guess is a reaction to the overload of digital downloads. By doing vinyl only releases, its more of a punk attitude, which has always been the source of creativity. I'm working with people like Tazz on tsuba limited who doesn't want any digital downloads of his music and isn't interested in playing the game. In general with releases on the big tsuba i leave at least 2-3 weeks after the vinyl is released before doing digital, to say thanks to the people that still buy records.

The real negative force in electronic music are the blogs giving away music for free. They are killing the scene and send out the message that music has no value. The saddest thing is justifying what they do under the guise of 'promotion' whilst earning money from advertising based on the traffic they get. It's stealing, simple as that, and as a label its very frustrating.

Tsuba Blog

Tsuba Records 5 Years

5 Years of Tsuba Part One is released Mid-February, and features Nina Kraviz, Okain, Art Department, Hector and Arto Mwambe.

5 Years of Tsuba Part Two is released Mid-March, featuring brand new tracks from Ethyl & Huxley, Christian Burkhardt & Federico Molinari, Bearweasel and Justin Drake & Kevin Griffiths.

12th Feb: Fabric, London (Federico Molinari, Christian Burkhardt, Kevin Griffiths, Bearweasel)

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